The Master Movie Review – A Haunting Human Study
Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master is not a film that will entertain you, and I don’t think it’s supposed to, but it will certainly grip you. For people who loved Anderson’s previous film, There Will Be Blood, The Master will seem very familiar. While they have different stories, both films are examinations of a specific circle and most importantly character studies.
The Master finds its protagonist, Naval veteran Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix) in a post World War II America, as he tries to readapt to “regular” life. Dealing with some significant post-traumatic stress and consumed by anger issues, Freddie gets seduced by the charismatic leader, Lancaster Dodd known as “the Master” (Philip Seymour Hoffman), of a faith-based organization The Cause. The film then proceeds to explore the intriguing relationship between Freddie and Lancaster, as The Cause continues to grow in followers.
While this could have been just another post World War film, in the hands of Anderson it becomes so much more. The structure of the film really engulfs you into this world and these characters. But even more than that, Anderson doesn’t give you the typical innocent soldier getting sucked into a cult. No, both of his characters are flawed, and I would even go as far as saying that Lancaster comes off as more balanced than Freddie.
And that’s what makes the film so riveting, seeing these two characters interact. And a big part of the credit is due to the unbelievable performances by Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman. We’ve seen these actors in a lot of different films and parts, but at some point they just became Freddie and Lancaster. There is one scene in particular that affected me so much my eyes started to burn along with Freddie’s (you’ll understand which one once you see the film). Without a doubt, one of the most powerful scenes I have ever seen in a film.
Another element that I absolutely have to mention is the music. I don’t always notice music but I don’t think The Master would have been the same if it hadn’t been for the haunting score by Jonny Greenwood. Within the first few minutes, the music sets the tone and takes a hold of you, it tells you this is not a film like you’ve seen before. I honestly had a physical reaction to this music and it holds throughout the film. It’s magnificent.
Finally, no matter your beliefs or character preferences, The Master will make you think and not necessarily the way you expect There are so many different layers to the story and Anderson exposes them all to you, then lets you decide what you believe and feel. Even the end is not all neat and nice, it continues to make you reflect on what you just saw.
Overall, The Master will certainly leave an impression on you. It’s not a movie you should go see expecting some entertainment on a Friday night, but instead you should expect an experience that will have you reflect on your own faith and views. I certainly expect to hear lots more about the film in the coming months, especially when Awards season comes.
The Master opens in theaters in New York and Los Angeles today, September 14th, and goes wide next Friday, September 21st, 2012. You can watch the trailer here.
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